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Crackling Embers IV: Art’s Dirty Secret Redux

By Lee Rourke.

[Image: Todd Kesselman]

On Saturday 17th January inside Tate Britain’s Clore Auditorium I attended the INS Joint Declaration on Inauthenticity, by INS General Secretary Tom McCarthy and INS Chief Philosopher Simon Critchley. It has been rumoured, post event, that McCarthy and Critchley hired a couple of actors to impersonate them up on the stage in front of the packed auditorium. Contrary to popular opinion I can confirm that it was, in fact, the artist/novelist Tom McCarthy and Professor of Philosophy Simon Critchley before us, thus solidifying the event’s authenticity for those in attendance. This, some of you may recall, is not the first time the INS has caused such controversy.

In Issue 1 of Triple Canopy, Peter Schwenger reported that the first INS Joint Declaration on Inauthenticity did not actually take place. Like Schwenger, I was not in attendance at the New York event, held inside Manhattan’s Drawing Center on 25th September, 2007, so I cannot comment on whether the event did, or did not, take place. However, I was at the Tate Britain event and can fully authenticate here, McCarthy and Critchley’s physical presence.

From where I was sitting, in the second row, towards the centre, I could clearly see both the General Secretary and the Chief Philosopher standing at their assigned podium, side by side, before the projected INS insignia, the motto cras ingens iterabimus aequor clearly visible. They then began to take it in turns to read each of the thirty-nine numbered thesis that, excluding the introduction, comprised its totality. Thesis number twelve perfectly summed-up the INS’s intentions:

“For us, inauthenticity is the core to the self, to what it means to be human, which means the self has no core . . .”

The ‘declaration’ calls for an end to the ‘modern dream of authenticity’ and to ‘abandon’ the myriad ‘cults of authenticity, whether traditionally religious, political, new age or neo-Buddhistic that attempt to recuperate some notion of authenticity.’ The INS calls for a navigation of the ‘brute materiality’ of things, to accept our ‘failed transcendence’ and realise that all art is inauthentic, ‘that it produces icons of failure.’

It was, indeed, evident by the number of press in attendance, that the appearance of Tom McCarthy and Simon Critchley in person was crucial to the event’s authenticity. One can only imagine the caterwauls of derision that would have rightly descended upon the two ‘Necronauts’ up on the stage if they had dared hoodwink those present and petulantly hired two actors to stand in for them – such temerity and tom-foolery would have undermined their, and our intentions, right? To reiterate this point I am put in mind of the unified scorn Andy Warhol suffered after he sent out various assistants and toadies to his own press conferences – in his own wigs – to impersonate him, only to answer the outraged media, after their collective protestations (to paraphrase): of course it was me, that’s what I’m all about!

As Peter Schwenger writes in Triple Canopy the ‘first test of authenticity is origin.’ I can make no mistake; authenticity’s origin was repeated, yet again, in the packed Clore Auditorium at Tate Britain, Saturday 17th January 2009. I was there.


Lee Rourke is the author of Everyday.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, January 28th, 2009.